Facing a Dodgers team presumably without two of their best hitters against left-handed pitching, Robbie Ray is an incredibly enticing option with huge strikeout upside tonight. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s MLB.
Freddie Freeman, Braves, $8,800 – On Monday evening, Jered Weaver will face a matchup against the wrong kind of team for him and this night should prove treacherous for him. Just a season ago, the Braves’ current active hitters cumulatively struck out at the 10th lowest rate versus RHP and they also posted the third highest line drive rate and fifth highest average versus the handedness. Since Weaver hardly ever misses bats anymore (5.21 K/9 last year was the second lowest amongst qualified starters), he will be pitching into the belly of the beast, so to speak. Meanwhile, Freddie Freeman is amongst the most consistent bats in the game as he still has yet to produce a goose egg so far this season. Furthermore, Freeman led the Braves with a .410 wOBA and .303 ISO against RHP while also posting a more than respectable .303/.405/.596 slash line and 43.3-percent hard hit rate versus the handedness as well. In 2016, Weaver allowed a .365 wOBA, 22.2-percent line drive rate and 1.78 HR/9 rate to LHHs, so there is serious upside in this matchup if Freeman is able to adjust to the speed change. It may take him an at-bat (AB) or two to get comfortable but expect screaming liners to be flying off of his bat before the night is over.
Carlos Santana, Indians, $8,400 – On this slate, there are a plethora of subpar pitchers to target against and Kyle Gibson certainly qualifies. Last year, Gibson only struck out 6.35 batters per nine innings and walked 3.36 per nine while finishing with a 5.07 ERA, 4.70 FIP and 4.50 xFIP. In other words, he was not very good and the 1.22 HR/9 was just icing on the cake. Specifically, Gibson struggled mightily to retire LHHs as they slashed a cool .325/.392/.495 against him with a .380 wOBA and 23.4-percent line drive rate in 66.2 IP. On the other hand, Carlos Santana absolutely smoked RHP to the tune of a .388 wOBA, .285 ISO, .256/.374/.541 slash line and 39.5-percent hard hit rate. Sure the average left something to be desired but the power more than made up for it (as did the 15.9-percent BB rate). Santana is typically not the safest options, as he falls more into the risk/reward category, but he is leading off against a bad pitcher in a game where his team is implied to score 4.7 runs. Take all of that into consideration and Santana is bordering on must-play.
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, $8,700 – Speaking of all-or-nothing type hitters, this feels like a Giancarlo Stanton blast off night. Seriously, Ariel Miranda presents the perfect kind of matchup for Stanton because has allowed a 35.6-percent hard hit rate, 2.21 HR/9 and only 29.6-percent GB rate to RHHs since joining the Major League team while only striking them out at a rate of 6.95 per nine. Basically, Miranda is a pitcher who rarely misses bats, allows a ton of hard contact and relies heavily on fly ball outs…oh and by the way, he is a lefty too. If that is not the perfect matchup for Stanton then I am not sure what is because the man has produced a career .415 wOBA, .325 ISO and 44.9-percent hard hit rate against LHPs and we know that includes a ton of bombs along the way. If there is one player primed to go deep on this slate, it is the Marlins’ powerful right-handed slugger.
Matt Joyce, Athletics, $5,100 – In order to fit all of the aforementioned bats alongside some of the aces on the slate, concessions will need to be made. Matt Joyce stands out as above and beyond the best “punt” even though his skill set combined with the matchup deems him a fantastic play. Every single time A.J. Griffin toes the mound, it is a top priority to roster at least one bat against him (if not many, many more). One of the many areas in which Griffin struggles is at retiring hitters of the left-handed variety. Although he held RHHs to a .306 wOBA, LHHs roasted him for a .406 wOBA, .285/.355/.623 slash line and an absurd 2.88 HR/9 rate last year. Matt Joyce, priced like a scrub, actually led all active Athletics hitters in wOBA against RHP last year and posted a .406 OBP and 38.1-percent hard hit rate versus the handedness at well. Whenever you can roster a .381 wOBA in a certain split against a putrid opposing starter, it is worth doing. When that player is only $5,100, well, you know you will be rostering the best value play of the entire night.
John Lackey, Cubs, $19,600 – Eric Thames certainly has added a new dimension to the Brewers’ offense this season so last year’s numbers really do not cut it. Having said that, the Brewers did strike out a league-worst 26.3-percent of the time against RHP last season and they are striking out at a 26.9-percent rate so far in 2017. In other words, John Lackey should not have an incredibly difficult time missing bats, especially considering he is coming off a 10 strikeout game against the Dodgers (who currently lead the MLB in wOBA against RHP). Lackey, listed as a healthy -180 favorite (tops on the slate), dominated in Wrigley Field last year: 2.62 ERA, .201/.268/.341 slash line allowed and .265 wOBA. So far this season, the Brewers have only posted a .223 AVG against RHP, so while they have hit the ball hard (23.4-percent line drive rate) and produced a ton of power (.213 ISO), they are certainly beatable. On this slate, Lackey is probably the safest bet for 15-plus fantasy points.
Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks, $8,800 – While Robbie Ray always comes will a certain level of inherent risk due to reoccurring control issues, he also possesses the highest strikeout upside of anyone on the night by far. With both Logan Forsythe and Franklin Gutierrez hurting, the Dodgers’ two weapons they acquired in the offseason to help them against LHP will likely be out again. Essentially, this offense will revert to last year’s version which produced historically bad numbers against the handedness. If neither make it into the lineup, Ray emerges as my favorite pitcher of the evening and it is not even close. Last season, the Dodgers’ active hitters (including Forsythe and Gutierrez’s numbers) cumulatively ranked in the bottom 10 of wOBA, wRC+, ISO, AVG and OBP while striking out at the eighth highest rate versus the handedness. In 174.1 IP last season, Ray struck out a whopping 11.25 batters per nine innings. All of this is a long-winded way of saying Ray should possess one of the highest floors of the night and he definitely possesses the highest potential ceiling in an elite matchup. Start him in any and all formats.
Jaime Garcia, Braves, $14,400 – If looking for a safe, cheaper alternative to either Lackey or Ray, Jaime Garcia’s price point is awfully enticing. Thus far, the Padres rank in the bottom five of both wOBA and wRC+ against LHP this year and that is after ranking dead last in both categories versus the handedness in 2016. They do not create a lot of hard contact and Garcia does not allow much so this conceivably should be shaping up for a dominant outing from the 30-year old lefty. Last season, right-handers produced a 32.6-percent hard hit rate off of him and a .342 wOBA so Wil Myers is certainly a concern for him. However, there are not a ton of weapons besides Myers up and down this lineup and Garcia’s struggles come mostly via the long ball. If the Padres are not going to take him deep, he should be able to pitch deep into the game and prove to be one of the best per-dollar values at the position. If deciding certain bats take priority, he is a fine pivot from the more expensive options.
*Stats are accurate as of Sunday, April 16